Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Court Upholds Defendant-Initiated Post-IA Questioning Without Counsel

US v. Cain: Cain was arrested as part of a DEA sting. After his arrest, he told the DEA agents that he wanted to cooperate with them. The next day, Cain made an initial appearance, at which time he was determined to be eligible for court appointed counsel, although no specific attorney was appointed at that time. After the initial appearance, Cain again told the agents that he wanted to cooperate. They were unable to talk with Cain at that time.

The next day, Cain was returned to the courthouse for a meeting with the DEA agents and an AUSA. By this point, the CJA panel had been informed of its appointment to represent Cain, but it's not clear when a specific attorney was appointed. The interview went ahead, after Cain had been advised of his Miranda rights. Based in part of what was said during that interview, Cain was charged with multiple drug distribution counts. Cain filed a motion to suppress his interview statements, arguing that his Sixth Amendment rights were violated because the agents/AUSA did not attempt to contact his CJA attorney. The district court granted the motion.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit reversed. Noting that Cain's Sixth Amendment rights had attached, the court nonetheless held that the record showed Cain's repeated attempts to initiate contact with the DEA agents. Furthermore, Cain was advise of his Miranda rights three separate times, including right before the interview. In such circumstances, his Sixth Amendment rights were not violated. The Fourth also rejected the district court's alternate holding that the statements should be excluded under the court's supervisory power because the Government violated the court's CJA plan.

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